Most of us have searched for the 'diet' that will help us age with grace, prevent disease, lose weight, and optimize our overall health and wellness. But there could be a hidden problem that we are not addressing. A problem that could be causing whatever it is we are trying to fix. I'm talking about something that naturally occurs in our body -- a part of our body’s immune response. When managed, we live in comfort -- moving easily without pain, stiffness, redness, and swelling. Sometimes it comes and goes, and for other’s it’s a chronic condition.
Inflammation is now a part of mainstream conversation when it comes to certain disease states. If you do an Amazon search using the keywords “anti-inflammatory” in books, you will find more than 1,400 titles. The most natural remedy, of course, comes from our diets. As Hippocrates says: "Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food." With a healthy diet and lifestyle, you can begin to remedy or offset the burden placed on your body and allow it to start healing more efficiently, increasing your body’s immunity and preventing diseases such as obesity, heart problems, cancer, and other degenerative issues.
Here are 12 foods that are easy to incorporate into your everyday meals. Truly it will be a delight to eat well for your body!
Turmeric contains curcumin, a strong anti-inflammatory compound that has been shown to inhibit a number of pro-inflammatory compounds in clinical studies. Recent studies have shown that it has similar effects to over-the-counter anti-inflammatory drugs. Its use in the treatment for diseases such as irritable bowel disease and rheumatoid arthritis, as well as its role in reducing the risk of diseases like cancer and Alzheimer’s disease, is being investigated.
Salmon is rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which inhibit a pro-inflammatory enzyme called COX. Omega-3 fatty acids also counter the pro-inflammatory effects of omega-6 fatty acids, which are often overconsumed in American diets. See our Healthy Salmon Recipes.
Walnuts are also a good source of omega-3 fatty acids (specifically for vegetarians). Additionally, they contain numerous polyphenols that act as antioxidants to fend off oxidative damage. Learn more about the health benefits of walnuts and how to use them in your cooking.
A key compound in ginger called gingerol suppresses pro-inflammatory compounds including cytokines and chemokines, as well as pro-oxidative agents that lead to systemic stress. And fresh ginger can be used in so many different recipes.
Green tea is rich in a polyphenol called EGCG; research suggests that this compound inhibits pro-inflammatory pathways. Green tea has been investigated for its therapeutic use in cancers, irritable bowel disease, and diabetes. You can enjoy all the benefits of green tea straight from the tea leaf or bag, or you can incorporate it into your cooking and actually soak your brown rice in green tea. Not only does it soak up all the nutrients, the tea gives the dish a delicate, earthy taste.
Dark Leafy Greens
Dark leafy greens like kale, collard greens, and spinach contain a host of anti-inflammatory compounds, including vitamins C and E and antioxidants, that curb inflammatory processes.
Onions have several anti-inflammatory compounds, including quercetin, that inhibits pro-inflammatory activity and exert antioxidant effects.Whether you are topping your burgers with grilled onions, making a stir-fry or chopping them up into a salad, you will enjoy the taste as well as the health benefits.
Garlic comes from the same allium family as onions. It contains a number of anti-inflammatory compounds, including allicin, that inhibit pro-inflammatory messengers. Along with antioxidants, it has been shown to limit the progression of atherosclerosis and to promote heart health.
Anthocyanins impart vibrant red, blue, and purple colors to berries, but they’re also useful for their strong anti-inflammatory properties. Anthocyanins have been shown to reduce the activity of a compound responsible for initiating a wide array of pro-inflammatory processes. In addition, as antioxidants, they limit oxidative stress.
Cruciferous Vegetables (Like Broccoli)
Cruciferous vegetables contain glucosinolates, which are studied for their ability to block a pro-inflammatory transcription factor. They also contain vitamin K, which regulates the immune and inflammatory response, as well as omega-3 fatty acids. Have you tried broccoli salads?
Flaxseeds contains ALA, a type of omega-3 fatty acid that helps protect against cardiovascular inflammation. They’re also rich in lignans, a polyphenol that inhibits the formation of platelet-activating factor (PAF), a risk factor for inflammation.
Extra-Virgin Olive Oil
The consumption of olive oil is correlated with a reduced amount of inflammatory markers in the blood. At least nine different polyphenols work to limit inflammation in the body through various mechanisms, including decreasing the production of pro-inflammatory messenger molecules. Olive oil is a staple in most households as it makes a perfect base for a vinaigrette, and can be used when cooking or baking. I love dipping warm bread into olive oil instead of using butter. You can also infuse flavor into most oils.
Watch how to make Brothy Greens and Beans for dinner tonight. This easy recipe uses 3 anti-inflammatory foods (olive oil, garlic, and leafy greens), and it's totally delicious: